Writely frustrations… and ideas
In the Masters of Media class we’ve been trying out Writely.com for a couple of assignments in the past weeks. Not so long ago the online word processor was acquired by Google. The idea is very promising: “Share documents instantly & collaborate in realtime.” So we decided to take it for a test-drive, but so far all attempts have failed to create one united, democratic post. Here is my view on why the Web 2.0 application falls short on the collaborative aspects, and causes more frustration than collaboration.
Update: Writely was just renamed and integrated into Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
First let me start by saying that our group with eight people might be larger than the average Writely collaboration. The first thing we tried to do was set up a few guidelines, or top ten rules, for cooperation on Writely. By using various colors we distinguished ourselves and things seemed to go fluently in the classroom. But when I got back home and got back to the Writely document I was hesitating if I could for example edit, or maybe delete text that was added to my entry. In short: I needed to discuss it instantly.
The second try also suffered from the above problem, but in kind of a different way. We’re now in the proces of -or at least trying to- creating a combined (blog)post on the infamous Shocklogs. There was some writing already in the document and I added some lines, but the main problem with this was that we couldn’t decide anyhing about the form of the document because -again- there was no way to discuss the subject directly. Of course you can use the document like a chatbox, but that messes up your whole layout and with more than two people you get quite a chaotic document.
What would be very useful is a small Writely chatbox so you can chat with your collaborators directly. An instant messaging option would make the program a lot better for use in bigger groups. Or why not a “you decide” button which let’s Writely juggle the text by itself, whatever gets the job done! This second solution might sound a bit over-the-top, but I could imagine an option that lets you put different colors of text together automatically. Or one document which could use a multitude of tabs, one for discussion and one for the actual document. Just some ideas.
Can it be that we are the problem? That we need a more organized approach? Maybe, but the lack of specific collaborative options makes it very hard to actually complete a document with a lot of people. And yes… I do know it’s beta…
(also posted on newmw.wordpress.com)